- ESPN analyst Tracy McGrady discusses his Hall of Fame nomination, Adidas, Kobe Bryant and more in an extensive conversation with The Crossover.
At one point in time you could make the argument that Tracy McGrady was the most talented basketball player on Earth. Prior to the ongoing unicorn revolution in the NBA with guys like Kevin Durant, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo—and before LeBron James—we were not accustomed to seeing a player that was 6’9” with his skillset. His offensive repertoire was a thing of legends, yet he remains one of the most underrated NBA superstars of all-time. Kobe Bryant even mentioned that McGrady was the toughest player he ever faced.
Injuries eventually caught up with McGrady and ended his career a bit early, but it doesn't take away from his accomplishments on the court. While the naysayers will critique his inability to make it past the first-round of the playoffs (not counting his Spurs stint), McGrady was recently named a Hall of Fame nominee and should be able to get enough votes to earn that credential.
T-Mac was also wildly successful off the court, and his signature line with Adidas was one of the best in recent decades. In search of the next Michael Jordan, the three stripes signed McGrady out of high school, where he eventually teamed up with Kobe Bryant to create a two-headed marketing power. While Bryant eventually left for Nike, T-Mac signed a lifetime deal and created some pretty cool commercials.
Today, you can now find T-Mac on ESPN as an NBA analyst alongside Rachel Nichols on The Jump. HE also contributes to NBA Countdown and other ESPN programming. Prior to the Christmas Day games, The Crossover had the opportunity to chat with the future Hall of Famer about his nomination, life after basketball, and his Adidas signature line.
Jarrel Harris: First off, congrats on being named a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Obviously, when you found out on TV, you were shocked. How does it feel after having a few days to digest?
Tracy McGrady: Yeah, I was shocked. That wasn’t staged at all. They told me when we were prepping for our show that we were going to do a piece on Hassan (Whiteside), and they asked me if I could stay for five minutes and I was like cool. So I think we were going to talk about Hassan Whiteside who had made some comments about DeAndre Jordan. So we were just going to talk about big men in the league. This was also the same day we got the news that Craig Sager passed away so we had to change the content of our whole show. But anyway, we do the show and I’m sitting there. I am getting ready, thinking we were about to have this conversation about Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan and Rachel [Nichols] just hit me with that news. So that’s why the video turned out like that. I was shocked, I was like what the hell, what is going on? But it is a great honor. I am overwhelmed with excitement and the possibility. We will have to wait and see but I am overwhelmed with being honored as a nominee for sure.
JH: How has the transition been as an ESPN Analyst? Was that your plan after you finished your career?
T-Mac: It has been fun. I love my crew at ESPN and working with Rachel is awesome. That is why I look forward to coming to work, because of Rachel, she is just so professional, she is great at what she does and she makes my job a lot easier. We have a great format for our show. And what do you want after playing a 15-year career in the NBA? You want to sit there and talk about the game you know and get paid for it.
JH: What are some ways you would like to improve as an analyst?
T-Mac: Just to get better everyday. I try not to step into reporters shoes, like people who cover the game like Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne. I don’t want to step into those shoes. I just want to be me and critique from my point of view, from a player's point of view and to just continue to get better at that.
JH: What are your thoughts about the slate of NBA Christmas games?
T-Mac: I am only looking forward to one game and that is Cleveland and Golden State. I want to see the rematch. I want to see how Cleveland matches up with Golden State with [Kevin Durant] being on the roster now and vice versa. I think Cleveland is going to win the game, and I am just looking forward to that game. All those other games... I might be sleep for them.
JH: What players reminds you of yourself in today's game?
T-Mac: A lot of people say Paul George and a little bit of KD. But I don’t know. They don’t play with their back to the basket as much as I did, because I was in the mid post a lot. But I don’t know, I guess it will have to be KD and Paul George as well.
JH: Switching to sneakers for a bit—at the time of your first shoe deal, what made you sign with Adidas over Nike?
T-Mac: Well, I already had a great relationship with Adidas from high school. I participated in Adidas Camp, my high school team Mt. Zion Christian Academy wore Adidas and I had a great relationship with Sonny Vaccaro. So it was an easy sell to me, because I already a great rapport with one of the best mentors, people that you could ever meet and that was Sonny Vaccaro.
JH: You signed with Adidas when Kobe was there. How would you describe your relationship with him during your playing days, and did you consider it as a rivalry?
T-Mac: I considered it a guy that set the bar really high, and at the time it was [argument about] who is the best, T-Mac or Kobe at one point. I just admired him and how he approached the game. He was one hell of a player, and to me arguably top five to ever play our game. It was just the utmost challenge to go against Kobe whenever we faced each other. I knew what I was in for that night. The competitive nature that burns within him, he made me better. I watched him from a distance. I took some things that he did on the basketball court and implemented them into my game and that’s what happened.
JH: Which one of your signature shoes with Adidas stands out the most to you?
T-Mac: To me my best pair was the 3.5’s, and the reason being was because they were light and I liked the mid-cut. There wasn’t a lot going on and it was just a clean shoe. The patent leathers that I wore in the playoffs were great, and the one that I wore in the All-Star Game with the patent leather with the blue and the red.
JH: That brings me to my next question. You made a bit of sneaker history by wearing those in the ASG. Can you give me the oral history behind the idea?
T-Mac: It was just the blue, red, white uniforms that we had and I thought it was perfect at the time because I couldn’t really decide what shoe I wanted to wear. I didn’t want to wear the all-blue patent leather because I didn’t think it will look good with the uniform so I was like forget it, I am just going to do a red one and a blue one and I pulled it off (laughs).
JH: Where are those sneakers now?
T-Mac: I have them in my house.
JH: What is your relationship with Adidas right now?
T-Mac: Man, I have been with Adidas 20 years strong. It is what it is. They are off to these other young guys. They signed Damian Lillard and James Harden. It’s just me, I am here. I don’t really do much with Adidas at this point, but they take care of me and take care of family but other than that it’s nothing.
JH: What are your thoughts on sneaker culture now? Do you keep up with everything that is being released?
T-Mac: I am really not big on basketball sneakers. I don’t care about basketball sneakers. I am more of a lifestyle sneaker dude—right now Adidas lifestyle sneakers. Those NMD’s are killing it.
JH: Are you a big Yeezy fan?
T-Mac: Uhh, no. I rock the sneakers. I liked the first couple pairs that he came out with but the latest ones, I am not that big on it.
JH: When looking back on montages for the Hall of Fame and your signature moments, which one is going to standout the most for you?
T-Mac: The obvious one is the comeback in San Antonio, being down 12 with 30 seconds left. Scoring 13 points with 35 seconds left. To me that was one of the most historic comebacks in NBA history
JH: When you get the call to the Hall, do you have a name in mind for who you want to introduce you?
T-Mac: Yea, I do but I am not telling you (laughs).